Councilwoman says not all are sharing in her district’s boom _lowres

Nadine Ramsey

Less than six months after taking office, New Orleans City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey delivered a “State of District C” address Wednesday night, offering her constituents a summary of the work underway in the district and a preview of her policy and budget goals for the next few months.

Addressing an audience of several dozen people in the City Council chamber, Ramsey said she will be “fully involved” in rewriting and passing a law to govern short-term rentals in New Orleans.

The council took a step toward cracking down on illegal short-term rentals this summer, but Ramsey said the move was just an interim step until a more comprehensive ordinance could be drafted. New Orleans, like many other cities, is trying to figure out how to respond to the growing practice of people renting their homes a few days at a time to strangers.

“We have major concerns about the effect of short-term rentals in District C, particularly in the French Quarter, Marigny and Bywater,” Ramsey said. “We do intend to address this issue in a more comprehensive way. I will be fully involved in those efforts to draft and pass a new ordinance.”

Of her budget priorities, Ramsey said she will focus on allocating more money to programs that would assist the homeless and the elderly.

“While some of our neighborhoods are booming and some areas of District C are booming and the city’s moving along, we still have to be mindful that there are areas that are lagging behind and that some of the most vulnerable of our citizens are not being fully engaged in all of the boom that has been going on,” she said.

Ramsey said she will propose that the Department of Health’s budget be increased to include money to “deal with mental health issues as they relate to homelessness.”

Mental health issues have been identified as one of the causes of homelessness locally, she said.

She said she also will propose that the Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program be fully funded in the city’s 2015 budget. The program currently has a waiting list, she said.

The council will begin hearings on Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s proposed budget on Oct. 27.

Ramsey outlined some goals with less specific paths to fulfillment. She said she “will continue to fight for street projects in District C.” She said she also will work with the administration and other partners to find “innovative ways to spark economic development in the under-served areas of the district and to identify sustainable sources for continued improvements for repairs to lights, sidewalk repairs and for sanitation.”

Ramsey also addressed her recent controversial remarks on preservation. Last month, in arguing in favor of granting a property owner’s request to tear down her 1920s-era building, Ramsey said she believed people were more important that property and that “preservation is important but not at the expense of forcing people without means or of limited means to take their property away from them.”

The comments did not go over well with Council President Stacy Head or preservationists.

During her address Wednesday, Ramsey said that protecting the integrity of historic structures and accommodating the needs of people who live in them is a “very delicate balance.” “I see the value of both goals and I do not believe that they are mutually exclusive, but rather that they can work hand in hand,” she said. “These matters will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.” She added that she would work with property owners and preservationists to obtain the “highest use” of buildings.

Ramsey offered a summary of projects underway in the district, including upgrades to parks on the West Bank, repairs to the Municipal Auditorium and the upcoming reopening of the St. Roch Market.

“As your council person, I will shepherd those projects through to completion, using your input to ensure that the greatest needs are met and to promote the better use of funding,” she said.

A notice distributed by Ramsey’s office said she scheduled the speech “to keep you informed of what is happening in your community.” It urged her constituents to “come out and learn about the wonderful things taking place in District C.” The district includes Algiers, the French Quarter, Marigny, Treme, Bywater and other neighborhoods.

The event also was an opportunity for Ramsey to promote the campaign of her sister, Ruth Ramsey, who is running for Civil District Court judge. Ruth Ramsey introduced the councilwoman, while her campaign team passed out literature to the audience before the address began.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, state Sen. David Heitmeier, Civil Court Judge Lloyd Medley, Councilmen James Gray and Jason Williams, Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell and several New Orleans Police Department commanders were in attendance.